WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
After years of turmoil on and off the track, Dwain Chambers has returned stronger and faster than ever to where he belongs; the British number-one slot. Nicola Bamford spoke to the sprinter ahead of the World indoor Championships where he hopes to bag 60m gold in a year which he dubs as his ‘new chapter’...
For 31-year-old Chambers; who competes for Belgrave Harriers, his recent athletic success and new-found scintillating form is all the more special, following the trials and negative backlash he faced from the sport last decade.
Time though, is a healer and now ‘Team Dwain’, the public and even his former foe; the press have noted his positive change since serving his two-year competition ban for taking performance-enhancing drugs; and in 2010, the former world 100m bronze-medallist again sits as a hot contender for global glory.
Following his UK indoor Championship and world trials 60m victory in a (at the time) world-leading 6.50 in Sheffield last month, Chambers is in confident mood ahead of the biggest event of the season in Doha, Qatar from March 12th-14th:
“I never take anything for granted. Anything can happen in Championships. I am in great shape physically and mentally and my aim is to convert that into a series of good performances,” Chambers explained.
“I had a calf strain coming out of the Worlds (last summer, where he finished sixth in the 100m), but recovered well and have been training hard. I am very happy with my preparation for this season. More importantly for me, the crowds were fantastic (in Sheffield); very supportive and it was a great day all round.”
Coached by Daniel Plummer; another 100m man and based at the Lee Valley athletics centre in London, support from those closest to him is one of the main reasons Chambers is back to his best. The European indoor 60m record-holder has had the voluntary assistance of Siza Agha; a criminal barrister with a passion for sport and the unwavering love of his partner and two young sons:
“Leonie is my soul mate and rock,” Chambers explained. “Rocco and Skye are my soul. My family mean everything to me. The feeling I had in Sheffield will stay with me, it really feels like a new chapter, new hope and belief. Very positive from the public, the competitors and the press,” Chambers revealed.
Leading the way
Competing and leading arguably Britain’s toughest athletics event, Chambers enjoys a rich camaraderie with his fellow rivals:
“The other guys have been very supportive and I always help them where I can. Mark (Lewis-Francis) was really down after the trials and I gave him a few words of encouragement; he will be back. I was also really touched by what Harry (Aikines Aryeetey) said after Sheffield in the press. There are a number of great British sprinters coming through and I have to be at my best to stay ahead of them.”
Chambers is used to leading the way too, as he has spent the past few seasons as the undisputed king of British sprinting. Bouncing back from disappointment in 2008 due to an Olympic ban, he took the European indoor title and made the global outdoor championship final despite a Euromeetings ban inhibiting his quality races, to mark his return to top-flight athletics with a bang:
“2009 was a hard season for me and a bit of roller coaster,” Chambers explained. “Turin (European indoors) was a real high and the world Championships (in Berlin) were a disappointing low. In between, I had to make the most of the situation I was in and prepare as best possible - my preparation was not ideal.”
Chambers though, prefers to look past the frustration and forward to the future. Together with Plummer, he runs ‘Chambers of Sport’; an academy to inspire children to get involved in sport and maximise their personal potential:
“Chambers of Sport has two aims: firstly, to provide a support structure for elite athletes. Being an athlete is a lonely and isolating experience and it is important to get support from people like myself who have experienced that feeling and been able to pull through. Secondly, it is for people who need a second chance in life, through the use of sport,” Chambers explained.
Chambers’ own second chance on the track is intriguing, considering he is as quick as he was ten-years ago:
“I am more mature and mentally much stronger. Sprinting is as much mental as it is physical. I am totally focussed on my sprinting” Chambers revealed. “I am feeling really positive about my athletics and enjoying competing again. I readily accept that I have made my fair share of mistakes but 2010 is a new season with new goals. It’s an exciting time for me.”
Exciting times they are indeed for the speed demon who names double Olympic champion and world-record-holder, Usain Bolt as well as Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell as the rivals he admires and relishes the opportunity to race against the most.
Chambers; who trains alone to simulate a race situation, additionally recognises that another rival; former Olympic 100m champion, Justin Gatlin will also have his own issues when he returns to competitive action after a four-year drugs ban later this year – but Chambers is evidently solely focused on looking after number-one.
Previously known for his bold predicaments - such as aiming for a world-record of 9.65 in 2003 and ‘project Bolt’ last year, Chambers is now more realistic in his aspirations for 2010; a year in which he should take the European (Barcelona, July) and Commonwealth (New Delhi, October)outdoor titles:
“My race schedule for 2010 will be more organised, planned and structured around the major championships. I may do some 200’s, but my main focus is the 100m,” he revealed.
In addition to collecting more silverware this year, it is as clear as the shiny gold tooth at the top of his mouth that Chambers yearns for top international contests and global glory when the opportunity presents itself in 2011 (Daegu, South Korea):
“I hope that I will get the chance to compete against the best sprinters in the world,” Chambers explained. “The athletics world has not yet seen the best of Dwain Chambers in sprinting terms; I hope that in 2010, I will be given the opportunity to put right the mistakes, be recognised for my athletics and perform well on the track. I still have a few more years left in the sport and want to look forward and make the most of it.
“I want to be recognised, accepted and remembered for my achievements on the track. It’s a chapter I am starting to write this year.” A very exciting chapter it is